Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New potential problem with cows?

What happens when people have to pay to have cows rendered? There's a new FDA regulation that's called the "enhanced feed ban regulation." This means that cows over 30 months of age won't be able to be rendered without removing the brain and spinal cord. These dead animals typically were rendered and included in meant and bone meal.

The impact of this ban is discussed by Jim Dickrell of Dairy Today in a recent Dairy Talk Blog posting. Leslie Reed of the Omaha World-Hearld discusses this impact for both dairy and beef cattle in a recent article. Instead of being paid for the cows, dairy producers will have to pay to have the cows removed from their farm. This cost will likely be $100-$200 per cow. An alternative is to compost the cow, and many states extension services are organizing composting workshops for dairy producers. The University of Maryland Extension folks are organizing this now, for example.

There is a lesson here that can be learned from horse owners. Ever since slaughterhouses for horses were banned in the US, there was no economic incentive to have old or unwanted horses killed. All the emotional discussion about eating horses needs to be put aside, because not only does much of the world eat horse meat but we need to examine what happens to the horses when there is no economic incentive for the horse owner to get rid of the horse.

Horses end up being abandoned, neglected and often not fed properly. MJ Clark in a recent article in the Wyoming Business Journal described the situation of a horse rescue farm that would be over whelmed if they took donations. Helen Boreczky runs the horse rescue farm, and is quoted in the article as saying:

“I’d say the abuse has increased because people aren’t selling them to slaughter.”

As dairy producers don't have an outlet for downer, sick or dead cows, they will tend to leave the cows suffer longer before they die. I'm afraid that this will end up being a cruel fact of dairy farming in the future, and it will only open the industry up to further criticism. That's criticism that the industry doesn't need at this point in time.

Please do what you can as dairy advisers to prevent this problem.

Hope that helps.


Has history repeated itself?

Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is a large nationally-based farmer-owned milk marketing and dairy product manufacturing cooperative with headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. Recently, DFA announced that they had reached a settlement with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission along with two former leaders of DFA. The monetary penalty was $12 million US Dollars. This settlement didn't generate a large 'news' presence, with an Associated Press news item circulated in some dairy and local publications in dairy-rich regions of the US and with an article in a Kansas City newspaper.

A US Mid-Atlantic regional publication, Lancaster Farming, had a recent front page article about this settlement and the reaction of their dairy community to the settlement. This article describes the essence of the charge as:

The core of complaints against DFA and the two executives was that they essentially traded against the interests of their own member farmers on the CME, betting on and profiting from declines in prices of dairy commodities traded on the exchange floor."

A little more reading in the article mentions the executives by name and one of those is Gary Hanman, of DFA, who I remember my father mentioning. Please pardon a little bit of history, but I remember my father, Kenny, mentioning Mr. Hanman. My father is a part of this blog's goal.

DFA's history is that it was formed in 1998 by merging four large dairy cooperatives. My father was associated with Mid-American Dairymen (MidAm) which was one of the four cooperatives, and I remember him mentioning political contributions. Another of the four was Associated Milk Producers Inc (AMPI) which gained much noteriety in the 1970's for
contributing money to the campaign fund of President Richard Nixon. The government then changed their stand on milk price supports and the price of milk increased substantially.

Still reading? Here's where history may have repeated itself. You can easily look up recent contributions to political campaigns on the Huffington Post website. If you do a search for Gary Hanman, you find that in the last quarter of '07 and the first quarter of '08, Mr. Hanman made contributions of over $4,000 to prominent Republican campaign organizations.

The article in Lancaster Farming states that the "...
U.S. Justice Department probe of DFA and other players in the U.S. dairy industry that has dragged on for years and apparently been kept bottled up by Bush administration political operatives at the highest levels at Justice. "

I don't know if they are related or not, and I'm not implying that there is a cause and effect. I just find it ironic that once again, former leaders of dairy industry organizations are making political contributions and that a reporter is once again connecting favorable treatment by government officials with a dairy leader who made contributions to the political party in power at the time.

Can't we learn from our mistakes?

Hope that helps.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Feedstuff's Editor Misses the Boat

Sarah Muirhead is Editor and Publisher of Feedstuffs, a weekly hardcopy and for-fee Internet publication that focuses on the animal agriculture business, especially feeding those animals. An article by Ms. Muirhead was recently published in Farm Futures, a "sister" publication to Feedstuffs. The article is entitled "Higher Costs Unfold as Dairy Tech is Removed", and Ms. Muirhead says the following:

"Options for increasing total milk production for safe, wholesome, nutritious diets are to either (1) increase the number of cows milked, or (2) improve productivity through technology."

Ms. Muirhead says in effect that the recent decline in overall milk production was due in large part to dairy producers not using the bST product, Posilac. Well, some producers have used less Posilac, but your ways to increase milk production misses one key option. That option is the opposite of what is historically done when feed prices get high.

The third option is that dairy farmers can feed more concentrate and milk production will go up. This isn't a new concept. The relationship between feed prices and total milk production is strong and negative. As prices of concentrate feeds rise, and they certainly did that in 2008, dairy farmers don't feed their cows as much. Anybody associated with the industry knew that.

If you don't feed cows as much protein and energy concentrate feeds, like corn grain and soybean meal, then then don't milk as much. Everybody associated with the industry knows that.

Ms. Muirhead, I'm sorry, but with the focus of your publication being feeding animals and with your role as Editor and Publisher you should have not missed this direct cause and effect relationship.

Hope that helps


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Clever idea for dairy advisers from Australia

There's times when we observe or hear about clever ideas from other locations, even different continents. I read about one today in the Weekly Times Now published in Australia. Their article describes a service that dairy producers can register to get an e-mail message whenever the combination of heat and humidity gets high enough to limit milk production.

The Cool Cows website is part of the Grains2Milk project in Australia. There's a number of publications written for the Australian conditions, and the part where you can register to get a warning e-mail.

This would be something that any US public or private dairy adviser could put together for the dairy producers is her/his area. The temperature and humidity combination's that limit milk production are well known. An adviser could then create a program by establishing a web-page with links to publications and other resources. A warning e-mail could then be sent to dairy producers when those conditions arise.

Examples of good publications include one from DAIReXNET in eXtension that describes the evaluation and selection of cooling equipment for different locations. The folks from Kansas State University Extension also have some good publications on this issue.

It's cold here in North America at the moment, but there's time for someone to get this program established and promoted before the weather gets hot.

Hope that helps.